Project ALLIES

Autism Language and Learning in Inclusive Educational Settings

Students who have been accepted into the master’s and/or credential programs in the Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences (SLHS) and Special Education departments may apply to participate in Project ALLIES.

About Project ALLIES

Project ALLIES is a five-year personnel preparation project supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (Grant # H325K170053). The co-directors of the project are Drs. Betty Yu and Pamela Wolfberg. The grant began in 2018. The aim of Project ALLIES is to recruit and train 16 scholars from SLHS and Special Education yearly (8 from each discipline) to work collaboratively to provide high quality, evidence-based services to school-aged students on the autism spectrum with significant social-communication needs (especially those from traditionally underrepresented communities) in inclusive educational settings.

Guiding Principles and Philosophic Foundations

The acronym ALLIES and the project logo (which is adapted from the Ashanti andinkra [visual symbol] for cooperation and interdependence) convey our commitment to creating an alliance among professionals, families and community partners in service of:

  • Building an inclusive community that promotes cultural, linguistic, and neurodiversity
  • Removing barriers to meaningful participation, communication, and socialization for children on the autism spectrum and their families
  • Ensuring access to and success towards meeting high educational standards through intensive, coordinated, interdisciplinary, curriculum- and evidence-based instruction and intervention for diverse students with high-intensity social-communication needs
  • Understanding the core characteristics and challenges of learners on the autism spectrum
  • Collaboration with families and other team members for assessment and intervention
  • Naturalistic, culturally/linguistically responsive, and developmentally appropriate learning
  • Use of evidence-based practice through the evaluation of scientific evidence
  • Promotion of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), neurodiversity, and inclusion with typical peers in diverse learning and social contexts

The philosophic foundations of Project ALLIES are consistent with the professional practice guidelines put forth by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2006; n.d.) and Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) (2009) which emphasize the need for interdisciplinary, family-centered, developmentally-based, and culturally/linguistically competent services that target the core challenges in autism.

After the successful completion of the program, SLP scholars will meet the requirements for an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association-accredited master of science degree in SLP, California Credential in SLP Services, and the California state license in SLP. Special Education scholars will meet the requirements for a master of arts degree in Special Education and the California Education Specialist Credential. Both groups of scholars will receive the Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate issued by San Francisco State University.

Project ALLIES Requirements

SLP and SPED scholars will be required to complete the Project ALLIES training activities in addition to the curricula for their respective master’s degrees.

Before applicants are accepted into this federally funded grant, they must meet with a project director to develop a program plan in order to determine whether the student can complete these activities within a reasonable timeline.

Below is an overview of Project ALLIES requirements, which are described in more detail in the Project ALLIES Handbook.


  • SPED 791: Nature of Autism Spectrum
  • SPED 825: Communication, Behavior and Instructional Supports: Autism
  • SPED 794: Socialization and Imagination: Autism
  • Elective: Graduate seminar with project director approval

Clinical Training

  • Autism Social Communication Clinic: Integrated Play Groups Program
  • School Internship (SLP Scholars) /Student Teaching (SPED Scholars earning a credential)

Service Learning Projects

  • Family Partners Service Learning Project: Respite Care
  • Transition Supports Service Learning Project

Graduate ePortfolio (Portfolium)

  • Documentation and reflection

Project ALLIES Learning Community

  • Attend regularly scheduled meeting

Post-Graduation Service Obligation

Within five years after graduation, scholars are required to satisfy a service obligation in return for the scholarship assistance they received. SLHS and Special Education graduates must work on a full-time or a full-time equivalent basis within their respective profession (i.e., as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), an SLP supervisor, special education teacher, a post-secondary instructor or researcher in speech-language-hearing, special education or related services for at least two years. A majority of the work (at least 51%) that graduates perform must be related to the training that they received in the field of speech-language-hearing, special education, early intervention, or related services for children with disabilities. Part-time employment may be used to satisfy the obligation (for example, working half-time for four years to fulfill the equivalent of a two year obligation). At least once a year, graduates will submit a report of the following to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs through the online Personnel Development Program (PDP) Data Collection System:

  • Contact information
  • Description of any employment that counts toward fulfilling their service obligation
  • Employer information
  • If needed, any requests for an exception or deferral from the service obligation

Stipend Support

The majority (65%) of the funds for Project ALLIES is devoted to scholar support in the form of stipends. The stipend is meant to support student learning and to help cover costs associated with project activities. Each scholar will receive over $10,000 in stipends and funded activities over the course of their participation in the program. Part of the amount will be paid directly to students and some may be applied to other direct training costs on the students’ behalf. Please plan ahead for costs associated with project activities. Examples of costs include:

  • Registration fees for courses/practica
  • Travel to and from practica, service learning, and observation sites
  • Optional activities (e.g., conference registration, hotel, travel)

Applying to Project ALLIES

Students who have been accepted to the master’s programs in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences or Special Education are eligible to apply. Up to 16 students will be accepted every year.

Priority is given to students from communities that are traditionally underrepresented in special education and speech-language-hearing sciences and to students who show a strong commitment to serving individuals on the autism spectrum who are from traditionally underserved communities. Priority will also be given to applicants who present a clear, viable plan for completing the project requirements within the projected timeline of their master’s program.

Applications for Project ALLIES are accepted each Fall semester of the project. Students who are interested in applying to Project ALLIES should contact Dr. Betty Yu in SLHS or Dr. Pamela Wolfberg in Special Education to express their interest or to obtain more information. The four parts of the application package are as follows:

  1. Project ALLIES Application Essay
  2. Project ALLIES Service Agreement
  3. Project ALLIES Student Data Report
  4. Project ALLIES Stipend Payback Agreement